Communication is sweetest at the dump

Communication with my handyman takes place in true local style. Although I have been known to reach him by telephone, it's more likely that I convey my messages to him in person at the transfer station of which he is in charge.

What brings me to the transfer station is, of course, refuse to be transferred - in this instance, from my "camp" (a local term in Maine for a rustic retreat one mile or more from one's primary domicile).

Once I know I am going to be making that trip, I peruse my property, including the outbuildings, for any odd jobs that need to be done. When Don, the handyman/transfer-station manager, doffs his wide-brimmed straw hat in my direction, I'll be ready to follow up our exchange of greetings with a few small requests. This has worked well over the years.

In late spring, I drove my '84 Toyota, with its waste-disposal sticker neatly pasted on the windshield, down the dirt road leading to the transfer station. I parked by bins that were individually marked glass, tin, aluminum, newspapers, office paper, corrugated cardboard, magazines, etc. Then I proceeded to transfer my recyclables to the appropriate receptacles.

What remained fell into the category of household waste and therefore eligible to be dropped onto the wide conveyor belt in the building that houses miscellaneous waste (along with the transfer-station manager's office).

I spied Don in his straw hat on the opposite side of the opening for the conveyor belt. I thought he would probably walk around the pungent collection of disposables to greet me, but he didn't.

"Hi, Jewell!" he called from across the broad expanse of rubbish.

"Hi, Don!" I hollered back, smiling my most winning smile. "How are things going?"

After a fair amount of small talk and a silent wish that he would come over to my side (I was reluctant to leave my car), I finally moved in on the subject that needed discussing. "You still available to help out at camp?"

"Rather not be," he replied with a grin on his face.

"I'm sure of that, but will you?"

"Not if I don't have to," he said, still grinning.

"Do you have anyone else to recommend?" I said, continuing our friendly repartee.

"Nope."

"Well, I need to have a leak in the line leading to my outside faucet fixed," I shouted, cutting to the chase. "It'll mean crawling under the camp, but you've done that before. You'll probably have to haul out the canoe before you can get under there. I have renters coming in next week."

I figured it would be good to let him know the obstacles to be hurdled to accomplish this task. Camp without water is a challenge at best, not that I haven't managed without it in the past, but I didn't think paying guests would cotton to the idea of having to haul water from the lake.

"And do you think you could get the dock in?" I said. "It looks like a two-man job." I thought I'd better warn him.

"Maybe I can get Bob to help with it," he said.

"When can you get over?" I asked.

"Could be Monday," he replied.

This whole conversation took place over the trough that held the nonrecyclable waste. Even though Don wasn't about to walk around the building to converse with me, I'd gotten my message across. I knew I could trust him to do what I'd asked him to, despite his feigned reluctance.

Tuesday, when I arrived to clean camp for the renters, I went to the closet under the stairs and shut the fuse-box door. The radio came on, startling me. I turned the outside faucet on; water poured forth. I was ecstatic. The dock was in, and the rowboat and canoe had been hauled down to the shore. Everything was in order.

There was no note from Don, but I didn't need one.

I just wish all my communications went as smoothly as mine with Don. He just shifts into reverse and backs into whatever I ask him to do. No fuss, no fanfare, and, despite his pretense at contrariness, I have learned to trust him. That's what you need to be able to do when you're dependent upon the services of a handyman who is also the transfer- station manager.

I am still learning to communicate with Don on his terms, but that's all right, too. He doesn't put me off; he just takes time to reconnect before capitulating to my latest request for assistance.

Now with summer over, it won't be long before it's time to ask Don to close camp for the season. That will be an excuse for another trip to the transfer station, a trip that's amply rewarded by the opportunity to chat with Don again, this time preferably not over the conveyor belt of ripe garbage.

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